Ten Minutes By Tractor is the convergence of a series of journeys that began over 30 years ago, a series of individual threads that fortuitously came together over time to create what exists today.
The first component was put in place when, in 1982, Richard McIntyre purchased the land that was to become Moorooduc Estate and began his own wine voyage of discovery, a voyage that was to intersect with Ten Minutes By Tractor when, already with over a decade of winemaking experience, he made our first experimental wines in 1999 and the first commercial release the following year.
The next step began more than 20 years ago when, in the early 1990s, the McCutcheon and Wallis families committed themselves to pursuing their dream of producing high quality, distinctive wine. Both families sought viticultural advice before each planting their vineyards on outstanding sites in Main Ridge, the Mornington Peninsula’s coolest and highest sub-region that held the greatest potential for producing exemplary Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 1996 the Judd family, also with the dream of producing high quality wines in addition to establishing an olive grove, bought a vineyard which had been planted in 1990.
Over the next few years, the families sold fruit to local wineries while experimenting with making small batches of wine independently. Their goal was to produce ultra-premium fruit and wines that best reflected the unique characteristics of their vineyards.
In the mid 1990s the Victorian Department of Agriculture conducted a benchmarking study of the cost of grape production. Andrew McCutcheon took part using his vineyard, Peninsula Ridge, to supply data (including crop yields, income generated from selling grapes, costs of running, harvesting and maintaining the vineyard, and details of capital invested in machinery and equipment in the vineyard operation). This continued over several years, designed to enable comparisons to be made from one region to another and one vineyard to another.
The study found that production costs in this cool climate region were extremely high, the pursuit of the highest quality fruit meant yields were low, and practices such as the trellis systems required in cool climates were exceedingly labour intensive. In addition, the Peninsula had an unusually high number of small vineyards, arising from historic land use patterns, and these small vineyards in themselves did not lend themselves to attempts to improve economies of scale. Andrew concluded that...
"Rather than the 15 acres of our vineyard, a working area of closer to 50 acres could make a significant difference in reducing operating costs, so I set about contacting neighboring vineyards, to see if there was any interest in co-operating as a way to controlling and possibly reducing operating costs."
There was interest from three vineyards and they met to discuss possible approaches. Each vineyard was using contractors to do some or all of the vineyard tasks and the obvious direction was to set up a viticulture company that would service the group’s vineyards, on time, and as required. They could pool equipment, and as a collective, buy any item that would reduce costs and increase efficiency. The participating vineyards ended up being Judd, Wallis and McCutcheon.
"We met one day to discuss a joint name. Someone described themselves as being about '10 minutes by tractor' away from the others; the name seemed appropriate, marketable and it has stuck."
The rest, as they say, is history. The three family cooperative was formed and shared knowledge, machinery, promotion and winemaking. The first joint vintage was 1999 but this was to test the waters and was sold to local wineries; the first official vintage, with wines labelled as Ten Minutes By Tractor, was 2000.
Old tractor at the original cellar door on McCutcheon Vineyard
For more detailed history of the individual vineyards see...
In 2000 the Ten Minutes by Tractor owners made their first wines with the widely respected Mornington Peninsula winemaker Richard McIntyre.
Several highly rated wines were released – and success was almost immediate. Wine writer James Halliday summed it up when he said: “This has to be one of the cleverest pieces of marketing I have ever come across, the unforgettable name reinforced by superb graphics. But it also has a particularly clever business plan and some excellent wines to support the business”.
The results of this first vintage pointed to the enormous potential of the three vineyards to produce wines of true Burgundian style.
Although the vineyards were close together, their different elevations and orientations meant that the grapes from each were separately harvested, fermented and set in barrel.
The resulting wine styles were markedly different, ranging from fine and elegant to richer and more opulent, and each was a true expression of the unique ‘terroir’ of its vineyard. Ten Minutes by Tractor could thus produce single vineyard wines in outstanding years, or blend wines to achieve the best expression of each vintage.
Some of the original labels
By 2003, Ten Minutes by Tractor Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were winning accolades from industry commentators and wine media and the three founding families realised that the success of their venture would demand an even greater commitment of time, resources and energy.
They decided their best course was to find someone who could take their venture to an even greater level of distinction. At the same time, wine lover and former financial services CEO Martin Spedding, was concluding two years research into wineries around Australia and New Zealand. When he discovered that his favourite small winery on Mornington Peninsula was for sale, he knew he’d found the winery he was searching for.
When the purchase was finalised in early 2004, Martin said: “Put simply, our future is clear – grow the best fruit we can, make wines that express the character of their origin and continue to put them in front of people who appreciate the difference.”
An additional site was purchased in Main Ridge that year. The Cellar Door (Winebar) vineyard was established in 2004, and a new cellar door and restaurant opened in December 2006.